Oruawharo

379 Oruawhara Road, Takapau

  • Oruawharo Station Homestead & Garden, Takapau.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 24/11/2011.
  • Oruawharo, Takapau, probably taken soon after the house was completed in 1879. It remains the original dark red colour and the ballroom-billiard room which was added to the left of the house in 1899, is yet to be built. http://www.oruawharo.com/index.html.
    Copyright: Oruawharo.com.
  • Oruawharo, Takapau. North elevation with garden shed and croquet lawn in foreground.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 24/11/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 1048 Date Entered 7th April 1983

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 14970 (CT HBG4/506), Hawkes Bay Land District and the buildings known as the Oruawharo Homestead, Stables, Coach House, dairy, and sporting equipment shed thereon, and their fittings and fixtures, and the grounds including ha ha, gravesites and plantings such as notable trees. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Central Hawke's Bay District

Region

Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 14970 (CT HBG4/506), Hawkes Bay Land District

Summaryopen/close

The Oruawharo Homestead, garden, stables and coach house, Takapau, Central Hawke’s Bay, is a representative, intact example of a Victorian rural homestead constructed of native timbers in 1879. Oruawharo is a special place with significant historic, architectural and social values that tell a story of the fortunes of the colonial landed gentry that maintained many of the traditions of English upper class society and never severed its ties to the ‘Mother’ land. Its significance derives from its link to the Johnston family which was an important New Zealand settler family, and its familial association to other important historic homes including ‘Homewood’ in Wellington and ‘Highden’ in the Manawatu.

Oruawharo is of historic significance for its association with John Johnston, who was part of the mercantile elite of Wellington in the early years of the establishment of the New Zealand colony. Johnston’s wealth led him to invest in the rural economy. He brought the Oruawharo run in the 1850s when Governor Grey released land for freehold from the old depasturing leases that formed the basis of settler landholding in the Hawke’s Bay. His son, Sydney Johnston, was sent to manage his father’s land holdings and he lived on the Oruawharo Station in the 1860s. After his son’s marriage, John Johnston commissioned a homestead for the couple that would be befitting of the family’s wealth and status.

The Oruawharo Homestead was constructed in 1879 and is significant for its architectural value as an extant example of a design by Charles Tringham, a notable architect of Wellington. Tringham’s design is in the Italianate Style with quoined corners, pediments and large windows that are reminiscent of stone construction but built of timber, a material that defines New Zealand as a vast forested land that fell to the axe and the saw to create the built heritage of today. The timber for Oruawharo was probably milled on site and the homestead is notable for the craftsmanship of the local trades people who were responsible for the ornate exterior and interior. Additions in 1899 saw the compatible construction of the two-storey south east wing that is home to an apartment upstairs and the intricately carved and panelled billiards room downstairs. The surrounding farm buildings, including the stables and the coach house, are other surviving examples from the Victorian period.

A significant feature of the Oruawharo Homestead is its setting in a vast garden with hundreds of large established trees, many of which were planted by the Johnstons and other notable guests, including a pine tree that was planted by Lady Jellicoe that is said to be a seedling from the Lone Pine at Gallipoli. Another notable feature is the ha ha which allows for an unimpeded vista of the surrounding farmland to the east.

The history of the establishment of the Oruawharo Station and the Homestead is closely linked to the creation of the Takapau township which was surveyed out for Sydney Johnston in 1876. The Johnstons were benefactors to the township with financial support and gifts to many of its civic and religious institutions. The Johnstons also had close links to the Catholic Church and were patrons to the works of Mother Suzanne Aubert and the homestead itself was gifted to the Catholic Church in 1965. Oruawharo was also host to the largest territory training camp in New Zealand during World War I, with many of its trainees shipped to the battlefields of Europe not long after their stay.

The fortunes of Oruawharo waned with the death of its heir Christopher Rolleston and the inability of the Catholic Church and successive lessees to maintain and care for the homestead and the property. With its sale in 2000 to Peter and Dianne Harris, Oruawharo has once again regained its status as a showpiece of Hawke’s Bay heritage and as an enduring physical memory to the pastoral elites that defined the economic, political and social history of New Zealand.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Oruawharo Homestead was constructed for Sydney and Sophia Johnston by John Johnston, a notable merchant, landholder and Legislative Council member. The Johnstons were an important early colonial family that established strong economic, political and social interests in New Zealand.

Sydney Johnston was an important figure in the Hawke’s Bay; creating the township of Takapau to which he was a great benefactor and patron. The Johnstons were also devout Catholics and have associations with Mother Suzanne Aubert who sought donations for her charitable work, stayed at Oruawharo and was a friend of Nancy Johnston.

Oruawharo has historic significance as a site for the largest Territorial Camp in New Zealand during World War I. A number of officers leading the troops stayed at the Homestead and a notable visit by Sir Ian Hamilton was made.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

The Oruawharo Homestead is set within extensive grounds populated by large, mature, exotic trees which form an impressive vista towards the east. The house is accessed down a curving driveway that reveals the homestead in its ornate and regal glory, and the grounds are an integral part of this picturesque place.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The Oruawharo Homestead was designed by the notable Wellington architect Charles Tringham. It is of special significance as an intact, authentic and representative example of the gracious colonial adaptation of Neo Classical style with Renaissance influences and a Palladian-styled façade arrangement. The 1899 addition is complementary to the original design and adds architectural significance to the house for its intricately carved native timber Billiards Room. Many of the original interior features have survived with the pressed tin ceilings, ornate plastering, wood panelling and carved main staircase, and fire surrounds adding to the lustre and palatial feeling of the rooms. The preservation of many of the original ancillary buildings associated with the residence, such as the stables and coach house, provide further architectural evidence of the buildings and lifestyle of the wealthy Victorian elite.

Social Significance or Value:

The Oruawharo Homestead and grounds are an important part of the heritage of Central Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand. The homestead has featured in a number of publications and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the place. Thousands of people have visited the homestead over the years and it continues to be an important venue for weddings and other important occasions.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

Oruawharo Homestead is of special significance as the former home of Sydney and Sophia Johnston, who were an important family in the history of pastoral el-ites of New Zealand. The Johnston family were early colonialists that never sev-ered their ties with the ‘Mother’ land and upper class traditions were maintained. The purchase of the lands that made up the Oruawharo Station and the subse-quent construction of the homestead is part of the story of land acquisition by the Crown and changing land policy that allowed for the formation of large land holdings and the concentration of wealth.

Over the years Oruawharo was host to a number of important dignitaries and the vice-regal home to the Plunkets in 1906 and the Jellicoes in 1923. It is nota-ble that a number of trees contained in the grounds were planted by visitors and a seeding from the Lone Pine in Gallipoli was planted by Lady Jellicoe.

The Sydney Johnston family were devout Catholics and were patrons to the works of Mother Suzanne Aubert. She stayed at Oruawharo and was friends with the daughter, Nancy Johnston.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

Oruawharo and the Johnston family have close connections to the township of Takapau and many of it civic and religious institutions. The homestead and grounds are a well known place that is visited by hundreds of people a year and a venue for weddings and other receptions. The Homestead has been the focus of hundreds of newspapers articles and documented in many pictorial histories of built heritage in New Zealand.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The Oruawharo Homestead is an important example of the work of the notable Wellington architect Charles Tringham and an intact and representative example of grand Victorian architecture. Constructed from native timbers the homestead is of outstanding value for its exterior and interior craftsmanship. It is an important survivor of a large and palatial homestead.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The Oruawharo Homestead and grounds have connections and similar stories to other large sheep stations of the Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa, many of which are registered by the NZHPT. It forms a part of the historical landscape of pastoral farming which modified the landscape and created immense wealth for the landholders. Their influence was felt in all areas of society, especially the political. Oruawharo is also an important part of the Johnston family estates that include ‘Homewood’ and ‘Highden’.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: b, e, g, k.

Conclusion:

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place.

Oruawharo is an important part of a wider story regarding the European farming enterprises of the colonial elite that settled New Zealand. It is a special place that is intimately connected to the Johnston family whose political and commercial contributions were felt throughout New Zealand. The Oruawharo Homestead is an intact and authentic example of grand Victorian architecture that has outstanding value for its fine craftsmanship and extensive use of native timbers, which are beautifully represented in the Billiard Room and the main staircase.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Tringham, Charles

Charles Tringham was born at Winforton in Hertfordshire, England, in 1841. Little is known of his education but it is thought that he acquired woodworking skills. Tringham arrived in New Zealand at Auckland in December 1864 and the passenger list records his occupation as a carpenter. Tringham moved to Wellington and established a partnership with a builder named William Lawes. At the end of December 1866 he left the partnership to establish himself as a builder and undertaker. Within a year he was advertising himself as an architect and gaining a considerable number of contracts for houses, churches, hotels and a variety of other commercial premises. Tringham married Margaret Hunter Bennett in April 1868, the daughter of Dr John Bennett, the first New Zealand Registrar-General, and this may have helped his social status in Wellington. Lucrative contracts followed, including the Italianate house ‘Westoe’ (1874) near Marton for Sir William Fox, and the extensions to William Clayton’s former home in Hobson Street (now the nucleus of Queen Margaret College). Tringham was nearing the end of his architectural career in the 1890s and was elected President of the Wellington Association of Architects in 1895. He retired to the Wairarapa to farm and remained there until his death in 1916.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Traditional History:

Oruawharo Homestead and station are set within the Takapau Plains of the Central Hawke’s Bay / Heretaunga. The name Oruawharo is associated with Ruawharo, the tohunga, high priest of the waka Takitimu, and ancestor to a number of iwi and hapu that settled the land. The name of the area may have originally been te maunga o Ruawharo and it has been shortened to Oruawharo.

In the vicinity to the south is the wahi tapu site of Te Pa Horehore. Te Pa Horehore was a Kauwhanga-whiri-a-riri (battle ground) that involved numerous tribes and war parties including Tangowhiti and Whata, Te Amiowhenua, Tangi te Ruru and others where blood was shed. Te Pa Horehore is also a pa tuwatawata (fortified pa); urupa (a place of burial); and a place of wananga (school of learning) and is valued by the local iwi in the traditional, ritual and spiritual senses.

European Settlement:

In 1851 Donald McLean (1820 - 1877) agent on behalf of Crown, negotiated with Te Hapuku (? - 1878), a leader of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti with kinship links to Ngati Kahungunu, Rangitane, Ngati Ira and other major tribal groups in Hawke's Bay, for the purchase of lands around Waipukurau consisting of 272,000 acres. By 1861 the Crown acquired over two million acres and changing land policy opened the way for the acquisition of large runs and the creation of land monopolies, ‘creating the foundation of a landed elite whose grip on the reins of power was not broken until after the Liberal land reforms of the 1890s.’

Wellington merchant John Johnston was an early run holder in the region, who held a Depasturing Licence from about 1850. Governor George Grey, in an effort to foster land holding throughout New Zealand, passed a regulation in 1852 that allowed for the freeholding of land at five shillings for pasture and 10 shillings for agricultural land. Pastoralists like Johnston began to buy up large blocks. Johnston, along with his cousin Alexander St Clair Inglis, had walked to Hawke’s Bay from Wellington to view the land he had invested in.

By the mid-1860s three Crown Grants had been made to Johnston, bringing the total area of the Oruawharo run to 11, 738 acres. St Clair Inglis and Charles Gully held the grazing rights for Johnston until his son Sydney, returned from his education at in Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England, to manage his father’s properties at Oruawharo, Tamumu and Clive. Sydney moved to Oruawharo in 1861, initially living in a bark hut until a house was built on the station about a mile south of the present Homestead. Sydney married Sophia Marianne Lambert of Lambertford Station (also called Tangarewa Station) on 12 July 1873. The couple lived in the house until the completion of the Oruawharo Homestead in 1879.

The Johnston Family:

John Johnston (1809-1887) had married Henrietta Charlotte Hatton (? - 1878) in 1838. Henrietta was a devout Roman Catholic and came from a family of some means. The Johnstons arrived in Wellington in 1843. With capital at their disposal in the new colony the Johnstons acquired a number of town acres and country sections and John set himself up as a merchant trading in commodities and later shipping, founding the successful mercantile business Johnston & Co. John involved himself in public affairs and he went on to become a representative in the Provincial Government and later the Legislative Council. Johnston Street in Wellington City is named after him. The Johnston family were part of the economic and political élite of Wellington and the marriages of their children were indicative of their status and their class distinction. Like other elite families in Wellington who moved to the suburbs or Thorndon, the Johnstons moved to ‘Homewood’ in Karori in 1852. While business was conducted in the city, John Johnston acquired large tracts of land in the rural hinterland for farming enterprises and to enhance his prestige as a wealthy land owner with large country estates.

Johnston’s sons, Walter and Sydney, would go on to manage these rural properties with Charles taking care of the merchant business. In 1873 John and Henrietta moved to a new residence in Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, ‘which for its size, outward appearance, internal convenience and beauty of finish, will not have a peer in the province...’ The architect has been identified as Charles Tringham, who would also be commissioned to design the Oruawharo Homestead.

Home of Sydney & Sophia Johnston:

The Wellington architect, Charles Tringham, was engaged to design a grand homestead at Oruawharo. Tenders notices for the construction of the house were called for in December 1878 and noted that building was for a residence for the Hon. John Johnston. Completion of the Homestead in 1879 and a description of some of its features were recorded in an article in the Waipawa Mail, August 1879:

‘Mr Sydney Johnston’s new house at Takapau, now almost completed, is a spacious, solid, elegant building. It is sixty feet by seventy feet with a twenty-five foot stud. The front is beautifully set off with large bay windows and a balustrade in level with the upper storey. On the side facing the railway there is a large balcony with a floor three inches thick, and tightly chalked. A brick stair overlaid with concrete, and having a splendid rail, leads the entrance to the vestibule, next to which there is a large hall. The building comprises twenty-one rooms, all firmly plastered. The nurseries are dadoed, as precautionary measures against juvenile tendencies to scratch plaster. To the upper storey there is access by three different stairs. The culinary departments are fitted with apparatus of the most approved kind. Baths of warm water apparatus are also provided. In short, everything that tends to administer to domestic comfort and convenience is provided. The whole structure combines elegance of design with masterly workmanship and solidity. Mr Tringham of Wellington was the architect and Mr D. McLeod of Waipukaurau the contractor for all the work, the plastering being sub-let to Mr McGuire of Wellington. The workmanship reflects the highest credit to Mr McLeod and all others associated with him. The house is situated about quarter of a mile from the railway line at the base of a gentle undulating ridge planted with trees. The situation can be made both beautiful and picturesque.’

The Sydney Johnston family moved into the house on 2 October 1879. Sydney leased Oruawharo from his father for £3,500 per year, and on the death of his father in 1887 he bought the station under the terms of the will. At this time the station consisted of 17, 726 acres and carried 22,000 sheep, 100 head of cattle and 30 horses.

Takapau and the Johnstons - Life at Oruawharo Homestead:

As with many of the large run holders of the time, Sydney Johnston was involved in politics and local affairs and he was elected as a member of the Provincial Council in 1875 and elected to the County Council in 1876. The township of Takapau was surveyed out of the Oruawharo Station land on 19 September 1876 by John Rochfort, under the instructions of Sydney Johnston. The name was taken from Te Takapau pa, which was located in the area. The streets bear the names of Sydney and his wife and children. The first sections were advertised for sale in August 1877. The Johnstons were great benefactors to the town of Takapau and land was set aside for a school and churches. They made donations for the construction of both the Catholic (St Vincent’s) and Anglican (St Mark’s) churches, the town hall and library, and gifted the section for the Plunket rooms.

The Sydney Johnstons, like other wealthy landowners in New Zealand, ‘became the colony’s nearest equivalent to Britain’s landed gentry and aristocracy’. Their link to the ‘Mother’ land had not been extinguished and the Johnstons took frequent and long holidays back to England and their children were sent to Europe and England for their education. Sydney Johnston’s daughter Jessie (known by her second name Meta) was educated at the Convent of Sacred Heart at Roehampton, England and a finishing school at Rue de Varennes in Paris.

The servants, nannies, station managers and farm workers were important to the life of the homestead and the station. The cultural traditions of the English upper class were maintained at Oruawharo, with many of the servants coming directly from England. At one point Oruawharo had twelve servants and the linen was put on the train to Palmerston North every week.

In 1903 Worrall, the station manager, left for England due to poor health. On 14 October of that year Sydney received a cable from Freemantle saying Worrall had died at sea, and wrote ‘I received this news with deep regret. He was in my employment for over 25 years and was a most valuable servant and good friend.’ A number of employee cottages were built on the property but have since been removed. Close to the coach house is a grave site marked with a wooden fence. It has been noted that two employees were buried near the old homestead, one being C. Austin (buried 24 February 1876) who was injured in a fall from his horse. The first son of Sydney and Sophia, Robert Quentin Johnston, died on 14 October 1877. He was buried on the property and later reinterred in Takapau Cemetery.

The family mixed with other landed, mercantile and professional elites, and politicians of the day. Frequent receptions, balls and entertainments happened at Oruawharo. The house was used as a vice-regal residence by the Governor Lord Plunket for three months in 1906 while the Johnston family were visiting England. Governor-General Lord Jellicoe and his wife also summered there in 1923. There were links to other pastoral farming elites, including the marriage of Sydney and Sophia’s daughter J. Meta Johnston (1883-1963) to Daniel Henry Riddiford of the Wairarapa at Takapau. On 17 February 1911 John Riddiford was born in the blue room at Oruawharo.

Oruawharo Homestead:

Additions to the house began in December 1899. Theses comprised of a two-storeyed wing with angled bay windows that included new bedrooms and a billiards room. This addition is noted for its use of native wood panelling, and ornate wood carving for the ceiling and large mantelpiece in the billiards room. It matches the carving of the grand staircase and it is said to be the work of Bavarian artisans.

The Interior:

Furnishings and antiques collected by three generations of Johnstons formed the holdings of the homestead and included silverware, family portraits and prints, a library that included a New Zealand collection, and heavy curtains consisting of corded silk and pink embroidered velvet, made in France. A notable feature in the bedroom in the north east corner is the inside of the door that is painted in spring blooms and signed N.J. (Nancy Johnston); a tangible reminder of the family that occupied this home for over 100 years.

The Garden:

The Oruawharo Homestead was a showplace of Hawke’s Bay and the grounds were developed with tennis courts, croquet lawn, ha ha, rose garden and shady walks under the many exotic trees planted by the Johnston family and notable visitors. The Station Diary records the first trees being planted by Sydney in 1874 prior to the construction of the homestead.

Lady Jellicoe planted a pine tree that had been grown from a seedling of the Lone Pine at Gallipoli. Harry Hall, who was head gardener at the time, remembered preparing the ground for the tree.

The Stables and Coach House:

The stables and coach house were constructed in the 1880s. The coach house would have housed carriages first before the advent of the motorcar.

Catholic connections:

The Johnston family was a well-known Catholic family who made generous donations to the church including the construction of St Vincent’s in Takapau. Mother Suzanne Aubert (1835-1926, in religion known as Mary Joseph Aubert) visited Oruawharo during her fundraising for the rebuilding of St Joseph’s Church at Jerusalem. She stayed at the homestead in 1889 and again in 1913 before her departure to Rome to gain pontifical approval of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion which she had founded. Mother Aubert carried on correspondence with Nancy Johnston and with the birth of Nancy’s son Sydney Christopher in 1923, she asked Mother Aubert to be his god-mother.

World War I:

Preparation for the New Zealand’s participation in World War I saw a section of the Orawharo Station surveyed out for a Territorial Army Camp, thought to be the largest in New Zealand, that would hold 6,500 men under canvas. The camp was constructed in early 1914 and the troops arrived by train and marched to the site in April of that year. Colonel E.W. Chaytor was in charge of the camp that included mounted, infantry and artillery brigade. The officers were stationed at the Homestead with the Johnston family and a bout of bad weather caused considerable unrest among the troops that ended in a riot. Captain Powles led the mounted police which restored order.

On 6 May 1914 Sir Ian Hamilton (1853-1947), Inspector of Overseas Forces and Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the Gallipoli campaign, was present to see the staging of the ‘Battle of Oruawharo’ and the exercise gained much publicity in the local media.

The family travelled to England during the war and it was there that Sydney Johnston passed away on 29 June 1917. He was buried in England and memorial gates were erected at Takapau cemetery in his memory. The family returned after the war to take up residence at the Homestead.

The Rollestons:

Sydney and Sophia’s daughter, Agnes Beatrice (Nancy) Johnston, married John Christopher Rolleston on 5 July 1922. The service was held at the St Vincent de Paul’s Church, Takapau. A dance was held at Oruawharo that night and another dance at the Takapau Hall on 7 July. John Rolleston was the son of the late Hon. William Rolleston, notable public administrator, politician and provincial superintendent. John was also engaged in politics and was elected Member of Parliament for the Waitomo Electorate in 1922 and was a member of the Reform Party in 1928.

John and Nancy’s son, Sydney Christopher Rolleston (known as Christopher), was born in the blue room at Oruawharo on 3 December 1923. Sophia Johnston died on 9 October 1931 and was buried at Takapau Cemetery where her children Robert and Henrietta were also buried. In the grounds of Oruawharo Homestead are two wooden crosses with inscribed copper plaques that mark the passing of Henrietta and Sophia.

On 15 July 1933 Nancy Rolleston took over her mother’s and sister’s shares in Oruawharo and in December she and her family took up residence at the Homestead. In June 1936 the Rolleston family left for England, returning in 1938 after leaving Christopher at Ampleforth College. Christopher later attended the Royal Military College Sandhurst and left in 1943 to join the Grenadier Guards. Christopher undertook military service and was posted to the 4th Tank Battalion. He served in North-West Europe, was wounded in Holland and awarded a Military Cross for his conduct in action. Christopher returned to New Zealand in 1947 and on the 4 July that year a ball was held in the billiard room to celebrate Christopher’s return and the Rollestons’ silver wedding anniversary.

In 1951 John Rolleston commissioned Gray Young, Morton & Calder to design alterations and additions to the homestead. Plans and specifications were drawn up and work undertaken to demolish the back wing, and create an apartment on the second floor above the billiard room. Other minor internal additions and alterations were also made at the time.

Christopher Rolleston worked as a rouseabout and shepherd on nearby properties before becoming manager of Oruawharo in January 1951. On 19 January 1952 Christopher Rolleston married Jenifer Mary Hinde, only daughter of Mr and Mrs Douglas Hinde of Kenya. The ceremony was held in a Catholic Church in Kenya and a daughter, Caroline Jane Rolleston was born in 1952.

As preparations were being made for the centennial celebration of Oruawharo Station, tragedy stuck when Christopher Rolleston was killed in a tractor accident at Oruawharo on 19 March 1953. The centennial celebrations were cancelled and the incident was a turning point in the fortunes of the station and the homestead.

The decline of Oruawharo:

Christopher’s wife and daughter moved to England and Nancy Rolleston had the homestead surveyed out from the station land and gifted to the Catholic Church upon her death in 1965. For several years Oruawharo was used as a Novitiate for nuns, the order Sisters of the Presentation was housed there and the Billiards room used as a chapel. In 1972 the Church could no longer afford the upkeep of the large homestead and a large auction of the chattels was held at Oruawharo with up to 1,000 people coming to the viewing.

The administrators of the Oruawharo Estate regained control of the homestead and land from the Catholic Church for the benefit of Caroline Rolleston, who resided in England at the time. In 1973 the Trustees leased the homestead to Diane Brooker and Colin Baxter who had the intention of restoring Oruawharo and turning it into a country club, but the financial strains of maintaining a huge homestead and its grounds proved difficult and featured in a Television One program ‘Good Day’. In 1978 the lease was transferred to Orua Wharo Country Homestead Limited and Dennis Hall took over the management. It was during this time that the NZHPT facilitated the painting of the Oruawharo with the help of the District Office of the Ministry of Works and Development. Financial difficulties continued for the homestead and a long running legal battle between the Trustees and the Lessee was finally resolved in the High Court with the termination of the lease.

The restoration and future for Oruawharo:

For the first time the Oruawharo Homestead, grounds and associated buildings were put up for sale - the surrounding Oruawharo Station land remaining under family administration. In December 2000 Peter and Dianne Harris bought the property and invested much time, labour and money into the restoration of the Oruawharo Homestead, ancillary buildings and grounds. The homestead is still a residence but with a commercial use to help fund its maintenance and ongoing repair. The Harris’ have added their own extensive colonial native timber furniture collection to the homestead and a number of Johnston chattels, photographs and ephemera have made their way back to their original home. The Johnston and Rolleston connections to Oruawharo are maintained by the Harris’ who characterise themselves as ‘caretakers’, not just of buildings but the history of the place. The homestead receives thousands of visitors per year and is a popular and much frequented wedding and function venue, as well as the site for large gatherings such as hunts and motor home conventions, whose enthusiasts are more than happy to contribute to the upkeep of the property through working bees.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

Charles Tringham, Architect (1841-1916)

D. McLeod, builder

McGuire, plasterer

Gray Young, Morton & Calder

William Gray Young (1885-1962)

New Zealand Dictionary of Biography: URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4y3/1

Physical Description and Analysis:

Environs:

Oruawharo is a large house set on extensive grounds in the rural area of Takapau in Central Hawkes Bay. A sweeping drive leaves Oruawhara Road, skirts a hill, and passes through large, mature trees and pasture to approach the house from the north. The drive runs past an extensive garden of lawn, beds and borders to the eastern front entrance. The house sits at the base of the slope on a generally level area, slightly elevated above the driveway.

Eastwards from the house, is a vista that can be fully appreciated at the Main Entrance. Lawns and gardens, separate the house from rural pasture by a ha ha, which is a ditch used in place of a fence to keep cattle out but maintain the uninterrupted sweeping vista. To the south, beyond the house, are the Oruawharo Coach House and Stables. To the west, the hill rises steeply, covered in mature trees.

Exterior of the House:

The house is a large two-storey building of timber construction with a gently sloping, corrugated iron roof. The roof is a multitude of gables, with two primary gables, in L formation, with hipped ends. Midway, each has a small secondary gable marking an entrance beneath. Another secondary hipped gable has smaller tertiary gables projecting at 45 degrees from its hexagonally hipped eastern end. Behind, are two further secondary hipped gables in a row, all creating an array.

The exterior of the house is impressive for its two storey timber facades - a gracious colonial adaptation of Neo Classical style with Renaissance influences and a Palladian-styled façade arrangement. Extensive balustraded balconies, rhythmical double-hung timber-sash windows; and timber detailing (quoins and ornamental brackets) lend a stately air. The upper floor surmounts the lower floor beneath resulting in impressively high timber walls that are augmented with bays and verandas.

On the primary east side is a handsome Main Entrance porch with an arched veranda and bay windows each side, all supporting balustraded decks above. Features are set in symmetrically lending grandeur to the entrance up concrete and brick steps from the forecourt.

A second (equally impressive) view of the north side of the house is obtained from the lawn where the symmetry of similar features presents a gracious and dignified aspect. The balcony veranda extends the full length of the upper floor here, uninterrupted.

An overriding asymmetry of the house is apparent however which is confirmed when the interior is also considered. The house appears to have been specifically designed to provide the dignity of a stately home and the comfort of a rural homestead, all the while taking the highest advantage of its pleasing situation. The two highly decorative facades of the house meet at the north-east corner; while at the south-east corner, to the left of the main entrance, large bay windows from the Billiard Room project in two directions in a pronounced way.

The south side view of the house is not marked by the arresting splendour of the two primary facades but presents a more familial mixture of doors and windows and decorations that give comfort to the kitchen entrance. A two storey hip-roofed extension is easily identified.

Somewhat behind, to the west, a lean-to along the full west side of the house contains service rooms and marks the rear of the house. A brick utility building (heating, fuel and dairy), with a tiled roof and elegantly timbered gable ends, is connected by a covered way to the house. A timber outbuilding is slightly separate, and at some distance to the south are outbuildings.

Generally, the house is of timber framed construction with a corrugated iron roof with several brick chimneys, and timber exterior cladding and detailing - pediments, bracketed eaves which continue as cornices, rusticated weatherboards strongly quoined. Windows are double-hung, timber-sash, four paned, in single or paired arrays.

The main entrance arch, with slender posts and simple curved arches, is lightly decorated. The door is a simple six-panelled door with top and sidelights. Bay windows, either side, have ornamental leaf brackets.

On the north, the veranda has curved solid brackets and small arch decorations between double posts, and balustrading continues the semi-circular motif. Doors are within the window opening.

The Billiard Room has two projecting ornamented bays with cornices, dentils, eave brackets and ornamental window brackets around broad double hung timber windows, single-paned. At first floor level there is blind balustrading beneath the windows.

Interior of the House:

The house has two levels. The original house is a sturdy-looking rectangular form with comfortably high ceilings. The Billiard Room Wing adjoins the south-east corner. Access between floors is via three stairways.

Entrance Porch and Main Hall:

A small simple Entrance Porch, with timber panelling and a ceiling rose of flowers and fruit, leads into the Main Hall through a single door with sidelights and toplights with repeated semi-circular patterns.

The Main Hall is a large, impressive, L-shaped, double height room: with rimu and kauri joinery; a pressed metal ceiling to the upper floor; partly-plastered walls above the diagonally-timbered wainscot; high timber panelling; a timbered bay window; a fireplace and chimney with a timber surround and mantel; and a timber floor. Particular features are found in the room – a carved timber-relief showing a native bird eating berries; an ornate timber and statuette pedestal light on the landing of the stair.

The most remarkable feature of the Main Hall is the timber staircase: with comfortable handrail; turned banisters of alternating timbers; incised fret fleuron panels; diagonally-timbered soffit; extended treads over ornamented stringers; drop-newels; a complex and exquisitely turned newel at the ground floor; and further newels supporting ornamental timber urns with cone decoration and inlaid contrasting native timbers.

From the Main Hall, the main living rooms are nearby - the Drawing Room and connecting Dining Room to the north, the Library immediately to the south; and further south, the Billiard Room and associated rooms. Straight beyond the Main Hall, westwards, is a panelled hall to the service rooms.

Ground Floor Living Rooms:

Drawing Room and Dining Room (now connected) are of large proportions. They have fine pressed metal ceilings and ornamental cornices, plastered walls, high skirtings. Windows open to the north under the long veranda to the croquet lawn and access is through single doors that have been fashioned into the lower part of the sash windows.

The Living Room timber-panelled bay window looks east over the forecourt. Its ceiling has a wide, dainty ceiling rose. A fireplace with a tall fire surround and mantel of marquetry, mirrors and turned embellishments backs onto the Dining Room.

The Dining Room has a fireplace with a surround of Italian black marble and a tiled hearth. Beyond the Dining Room a wall section has been removed to allow the connected use of a room that was once an office. Finishes in this room have been matched to the Dining Room.

Across the hall, the Library is a slightly smaller room with finishes somewhat less lavish. The pressed metal ceiling and cornice are moderately decorated; walls are plastered; the corresponding timber-panelled bay window, with its elaborately carved side columns and brackets, looks out over the forecourt; and a simple timber fire surround and mantel frame the brick fireplace.

Beyond the Library, though a timber panelled hall, is the Billiard Room, a room of elaborate embellishments. The grandeur of the room is in its superb, ornate timber work. The coffer ceiling is a plethora of shapes and reliefs, hexagonal and octagonal patterns, scroll and quatrefoil relief, diagonal boarding– all surrounding two central octagonal roses of a lancet pattern. The timber cornices are intricately carved. The timber wainscot is diagonally patterned with circular motifs at corners and high skirtings.

The fireplace has a simply tiled hearth but has a richly ostentatious fire surround and mantel - a scrolled and screened parapet, a highly detailed cornice with small dentils, Corinthian-styled half-columns with round mirrored arches between, decorative brackets, and finally, elegant Corinthian columns either side of the fireplace.

Ground Floor Service Rooms:

The Kitchen Hallway leads to the service rooms at the west end of the house. This hall has plaster walls, timber dado panelling, a timber floor, a metal ceiling, and includes the remains of the early room bell panel, radiators, and side tables attached to the walls. The modest Servants’ Stairway ascends here.

The Kitchen is a large airy room, south-facing, with a large oven nook and timber mantel above. Joinery finishes and fittings in the kitchen are of various ages as change has occurred. The adjoining pantry alongside now connects directly to the Main Hall. From the Kitchen a door leads through a Laundry to the Covered Way outside.

Off the Kitchen Hall, a couple of small rooms are now used for toilets, and the maids’ sitting room is now used as a store room. Further toilet facilities and small service rooms are found next to the Billiard Room.

Upper Floor:

The Main House upper floor is sleeping quarters. Timber panelled doors in the large Upper Hall, with its ornate stairway balustrading and large rectangular-paned window, lead to bedrooms and bathrooms.

Early plans suggest three large bedrooms (one with a dressing room) and one small bedroom were for use by the family. There were also a bathroom, a sewing room and three maid’s rooms. Some of the rooms have changed their use in recent times. Bathrooms have increased in size or are newly installed. However the general pattern of large and small bedrooms, for family or servants, remains visible.

The ceilings are flat and with a decorative pressed metal ceiling; walls are plastered and often have a frieze rail; and the floor is timber. One room is currently unplastered with its lath exposed. Two of the bedrooms have fireplaces and one of the rooms has attractive paintings of flowers on the panels of the door. The bathroom is wall-tiled. The three smaller servant rooms are accessed first through a small hall and it is here that the servants’ stairway descends.

Over the Billiard Room wing is a small apartment with a living room looking east over the forecourt through the two large bay windows. It has a timber panelled ceiling, sarked walls and a timber floor. The apartment includes other rooms that denote a rural simplicity - a kitchen, a bedroom, bathroom and two anterooms. Direct access to the ground floor is gained from an adjacent staircase down to the south courtyard.

Coach House, Stables and Implement Shed:

The Coach House and Stables are both a moderately-large utilitarian timber sheds of great elegance. The facades of both buildings are marked by gable and parapet trims. The buildings are timber framed with corrugated iron rooves over single gables.

The Coach House, a lean-to at one side, is lined with rusticated weatherboards and has a timber floor. It has large sliding doors and several timber double hung sash windows. The interior is match lined.

The front façade of the Stables has a pair of stable doors within a rounded opening, and three symmetrically placed double hung sash windows - either side and above the doors. Weatherboards are lapped. On the east side of the Stables are five timber-louvre windows and a large sliding door, and the rear of the building has a truncated gable, doors and several windows. The interior is unlined and has a timber loft.

The Implement Shed is a restored, single-gabled, weather boarded building, open for the most part with a room at one end.

Behind and directly adjacent to the rear of the Homestead is a brick and timber structure (formerly used as a dairy and food storage), and a wooden shed used for storing sporting equipment.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1879 -
Construction of the Homestead

Addition
1899 -
Addition of two-storey wing that includes the Billiard Room and bedrooms

Modification
1922 -
Repiling of the Homestead and modifications for an apartment

Demolished - Other
1951 -
Demolition of the back wing; construction of apartment on the second floor above the billiard room; some minor internal changes

Reconstruction
-
Reconstruction of implement shed

Construction Details

Wood, iron

Completion Date

1st March 2012

Report Written By

Natasha Naus & Alison Dangerfield

Information Sources

New Zealand Woman's Weekly

New Zealand Woman's Weekly

Hensley, Juliet, ‘Upstairs Downstairs – NZ Style’, in New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 16 June 1975, pp.6-10.

Wright, 1994

M Wright, Hawke's Bay: The History of a Province, Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1994

Bayliss, 1975

Warren Bayliss, Takapau: The Sovereign Years, 1876-1976, Hart House Printers, Hastings, 1975.

Nicholls, 1990

Nicholls, Roberta, ‘Elite Society in Victorian and Edwardian Wellington’, in David Hamer and Roberta Nicholls (eds.), The making of Wellington 1800-1914, Victoria University Press, 1990

pp. 195-226

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the Central Region office of NZHPT.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.